Illustration by Kelly

Interacting with a crush via text message is BY FAR the most important endeavor of your teenage years—nay!—your ENTIRE LIFE. As an expert on dating, sex, human nature, relationships, flirting, cell phones, and technology in general, I though it might be helpful if I shared with you some of my crush-texting tips. Here they are. YOU ARE SO WELCOME.

1. Never ever, EVER text your crush first. Your crush will think you are honestly so gross and creepy if you contact them. You don’t want your crush to think that you actually want to TALK TO THEM, do you? Right. Just wait by your phone for them to contact you. This might take somewhere between ten minutes and 100 years. Keep waiting.

2. Congrats! Your crush has texted you. Now STOP. Don’t do anything rash like, god forbid, text back right away. The post-text moment is a time for deliberation. The most important thing in this situation is not to text back right away, but rather, to wait it out for enough time that your crush thinks you were doing other more important things, like curing cancer or winning a Pulitzer or getting texted by dozens of other crushes. If you wait less than 10 minutes before texting back, you might as well just build yourself a shack in the woods and become a recluse, because you’ll be forever alone.

3. While you’re waiting for the right time to text back, take some time to think about the important things. Namely, how many Ys are you going to put on your hey? The length of your Hey Tail says a lot about you. A standardly spelled hey is the fastest way to imprison your self in the Friend Zone, but too many Ys gives the impression of drunkenness, desperation, or (shudder) both. Think about your greeting very carefully. Maybe even stress about it a little. It matters a lot.

4. Formulate a response. Hit send. Pro tip: never capitalize any words, or your crush might think you are a mom.

5. Wait for a response. Now is an opportune time to have an anxiety attack. Here are some things to worry about: Did you pick the right form of hey? Did you text them back too soon? Was their first text to you sent by accident? Was it meant for somebody else? Did your response get mixed up in the airwaves somehow and now it looks like you texted them “HELLO I HAVE A CRUSH ON YOU,” even though it was somebody else? All important things to worry about. (There are so many things to worry about, and if you are not worrying about all of them, all the time, you should worry about THAT. WHAT ARE YOU NOT WORRYING ABOUT THAT YOU SHOULD BE WORRIED ABOUT RIGHT NOW?)

6. If your crush deigns to text you back, think hard about your reply. “What’s up?” is more than just a question. It doesn’t just call for an answer; it calls for an evaluation of the universe. Conflict in Syria? A shortage of butter in Norway? The slow realization that with every passing minute you are one step closer to death? Your response to “What’s up?” should account for these things and more.

7. Quit thinking and respond, “nm, u?”

8. Call your best friend and discuss the rapidly unfolding details of this text conversation. IT ALL MUST MEAN SOMETHING. Play tarot cards. Consult a Ouija board. Sacrifice a squirrel on your kitchen counter and drink its blood for strength. A vision quest into the nearest wooded area will help you gain clarity. Your crush must have meant something by it when they said, “Hey!”

9. Give up. It probably wasn’t going to work out anyway. There’s a Law & Order marathon marathon (a marathon of Law & Order marathons) on TV for the next year, so you probably wouldn’t have had time to date anybody anyway. Lament your situation. Cry a bucket of tears and drown your phone in it. Never text again.

Remember, never be friendly, genuine, or confident. Don’t have fun or try to flirt. Take this all very seriously. Letting your crush know the real you is the fastest way to make sure they’ll find you disgusting. If you follow these tips carefully, I guarantee you’ll never embarrass yourself. Or take the relationship to the next level, but we all know that not looking like a loser is way more important.